Home / Entertainment / Getting Control of Your iTunes Library

Getting Control of Your iTunes Library

If you’re anything like me, you have an mp3 collection the size of
which borders on the ridiculous. But even if you have managed a more
reasonable rate of song acquisition, it’s likely your music library is
in some state of disarray. Songs without titles, completely useless
playlist descriptions, and incorrect tags can make a large library
virtually unusable. If you’re fed up with not being able to find any of
your music, don’t despair — getting your iTunes library under control
is not as difficult as you think.

Getting Control of Your iTunes Library

The first thing you need to do is set up a system of playlists so
that you can tell the difference between the songs you have organized
and the ones that are still waiting to be processed. This keeps you
from wasting time searching through songs you have already tagged and
labeled, looking for songs that still need labeling.

Personally, to
make things simple, I started out by deleting all my other playlists and
beginning with a clean slate. If you know how to use the smart
playlist function in iTunes, you can really streamline the process by
having dynamic playlists that update automatically, which makes the
whole process much easier and less prone to human error. If you’re not
familiar with how to make smart playlists, you can either make regular
ones or spend a few minutes in the iTunes help file and start
experiencing the wonder of the smart playlist. I use smart playlists
almost exclusively now, and rarely if ever do I use a non-dynamic list
for anything.

My three playlists are labeled to indicate their respective roles.
The first is called “Pending”, which contains every song waiting to be
processed (which at the beginning is every song in the library). The
second is called “Transition”, which is basically a holding tank where I
move a few songs at a time (sometimes as many as 50) while I’m working
on getting them labeled and organized. After they are completely sorted
out, they go into a playlist called “Finished”. The way I incorporate
this into smart playlists is by using the comments field — I set my
Pending list up only to include songs where the comment = “pending”, and
so on with the other two lists. Then I can just change the comment in
each song (or group of songs) as needed, and the lists update

At first, all songs start out in the Pending list. Select a few
songs that you would like to organize, and move them over into the
Transition list. Resist the temptation to move a lot of songs at once;
usually the reason things are not already organized is because your
library is huge and the whole thing seems overwhelming. Just choose a
few songs you like, or you can even pick a few tracks at random.

The labeling process can be as simple or as complex as you want it to
be. At the very least, it makes sense to have song titles that
actually refer to the song in the file. So many times I have browsed
through the music libraries of various friends, only to find that they
have 214 songs named “Track 1.” It’s not a very helpful way to have
your songs tagged, and to help stop the spread of the Track 1 syndrome,
it’s a smart idea to set your iTunes preferences so that it
automatically retrieves track information from the Internet every time
you rip one of your CDs. This can save a lot of time and frustration in
the future, as well as alleviating the need for most manual tagging.

Don’t be stingy or lazy in the tagging process. Many things like
album name and artist name can be edited in batches, which saves you
having to go through and type the same name a million times. So there’s
no reason not to add those tags, which can really enhance your ability
to search for specific songs within a huge library. Song titles do have
to be typed individually, since they’re all different, but if you stick
to doing the songs in small batches it won’t seem like such a hassle.
Eventually you will get in a rhythm and develop your own system for
getting the tags done in the quickest time possible.

Obviously, once you have finished adding everything you want to add
to the songs in your Transition list (I generally include all possible
tags, lyrics, and album artwork), you can move those songs into the
Finished list. It’s actually pretty exciting watching the list of
organized tracks grow, knowing that your iTunes library is becoming
increasingly more usable and user-friendly as you go along. If you have
a library of several thousand songs or more, this process becomes more
than just useful — it’s a necessity, and frequent maintenance (always in
small doses) will ensure that you’re never searching for a song you
can’t find. It also means that you’ll be able to create more specific
smart playlists (all songs from the year 1992, for instance) quickly and
with almost zero effort, which in turn will make your overall iTunes
experience more enjoyable. iTunes is quite a decent application, and is
growing by leaps and bounds, so it makes sense to get on board now and
use all the features it has to offer, before your music collection really gets out of control.

Check Also

NaNoWriMo: Don’t Just Read, Write!

In 2002, several friends and I embarked on a challenge we were enthusiastic about, but …